We begin in Camelot "many years ago" (which is writerspeak for "don't try to pin us down because we may screw with this timeline later). Young stable boy Arthur is already using his moves on young Guinevere, taking her to the tree where Merlin is trapped. Merlin apparently told Arthur his destiny, whispering from inside the tree. A group of young village bullies show up to taunt Arthur about his dreams for restoring the kingdom to its glory, but Guinevere believes in him.
Forward to Arthur trying to pull the sword and finding it incomplete. They rush back to Camelot where Arthur shows the people a carefully sheathed Excalibur. Don't worry, Arthur, size doesn't really matter. Guinevere is there to celebrate but she senses something's wrong. Arthur shows her the incomplete sword and tells her that his quest has just begun.
Ahead years later to the time of the Storybrooke invasion. Arthur tells David about the dagger being part of Excalibur, and recommends that they bypass Merlin and try to re-forge Excalibur themselves, chasing the darkness away forever.
Emma, meanwhile, is building dreamcatchers (great callout to season two) and hearing voices whispering in her head, calling her to the dagger. Dark Rumple leads her to the dagger in Regina's room, but Regina's put a protection spell on it, making it impossible for Emma to take it. She gets fed up with Dark Rumple and blasts him but nearly hits Killian, and she confesses to him that she's never alone - someone's always in her head.
She's clearly not doing too well and Regina suggests that she rest. Henry knows just the place, and Killian won't leave her side (of course), so off they go.
Once they're gone, David tells Snow that Arthur wants to reunite the dagger with the sword and Snow is vehemently against it. They start to tear into each other (and I really liked this – it's good to see them fight like normal people instead of being so gooey sweet all the damn time).
Back again to Camelot five years before (not to be confused with "many years ago") and Arthur is doing furious research, trying to find the location of the Dark One dagger. Guinevere shows up, begging him to join the party outside but he won't leave. He's just made a breakthrough, translating an ancient text that clearly shows a star, an eye and a sun that will lead him to the dagger. Guinevere is clearly tired of being pushed aside for his quest and begs him to come and dance with her. He reluctantly agrees, telling her he'll be right there.
He doesn't show, of course, and Lancelot gallantly steps in to dance with his queen. Some village ladies throw a bunch of rose petals in honor of her birthday, and Guinevere realizes that Lancelot is the one who planned the whole thing – Arthur would never have been that considerate. Arthur finally shows up only to interrupt their dance to proclaim that he's riding off after yet another dagger clue.
Lancelot catches Guinevere going after the dagger herself, aided by the magical gauntlet which will show her Arthur's greatest weakness – i.e. the true location of the dagger. Lance agrees to join her on her quest. The gauntlet leads them to the vault of the Dark One where Guinevere uses the pattern of the eye-star-sun to open it.
Once inside the darkness attacks Lancelot but Guinevere fights it off with a torch from the wall. It works, and she's so glad to see he's okay, she impulsively kisses him. She apologizes and he agrees to keep their moment a secret.
Forward again to Camelot just before the third curse and David pulls Arthur aside to tell him the truth about Emma. He also tells Arthur Lancelot is back and then he produces the box that holds the dagger – only to find it missing. Arthur's pretty freaked to hear Lancelot is alive. Guinevere was listening in and in a scathing tone she makes it clear that ol' Lance isn't all he's cracked up to be.
On the other side of Camelot, Henry leads Emma to a stable owned by Violet's family. Killian is thrilled to hear there's a girl (and oh my God, is Killian adorable in proud papa mode). Violet offers to take Henry riding and off he goes. Once they're alone, Emma finally comes clean about Dark Rumple torturing her. Killian tells her she needs to take a page from Henry's book. He's going to do something to get her heart racing. Oh, holy hell. He can't be meaning what I think he's meaning….
Flashback five years to the vault of the Dark One, where Lancelot and Guinevere walk through a door that leads to a wood where the dagger lies, under a protection spell.
Rumple shows up, refusing to give up the dagger. Instead he makes a deal: he'll give Guinevere enchanted sand from the mystical isle of Avalon that can "fix" anything that's broken. It can give Excalibur the appearance of being whole, which is really what Guinevere wants – something to appease Arthur so he can go back to being a king and banging her regularly. Lancelot tells her not to listen to Rumple but Guinevere takes the deal , turning over the magical gauntlet for the sand.
Rumple cautions her (quite prophetically): "Love is a weapon, dearie."
Back at the castle, Arthur watches a tender goodbye between Lancelot and Guinevere. When he confronts his wife, she comes clean about the dagger. She shows him the enchanted sand that they can use to faux fix Excalibur. Then she throws down the proverbial gauntlet: she tells him to leave off the dagger hunt or his marriage and his kingdom will be broken forever.
She tells him she's going to follow her heart and Arthur thinks she's going to Lancelot (who is leaving all on his own rather than betray his king). Arthur uses the sand on her to "fix" their broken marriage. Guinevere flips right over and pledges Arthur her undying love and support. He uses some more of the sand on the kingdom, fixing it. Whatever that means.
Forward to pre-third curse Camelot, and Snow has found Lancelot to ask for his help with hiding the dagger. Lancelot leads Snow to the vault of the Dark One and opens it, taking her through the magical doorway to the forest where coincidentally she had her vision of young Emma taking her heart back in Season 4. And ahhh….weren't she and David seeking advice about Emma from a magical tree in an episode last season???
Lance offers to place the dagger on the tray, since there's likely a protection spell on it. Before Snow can decide whether or not to trust him, Arthur shows up and threatens David's life unless Snow hands over the dagger. She does, and when Arthur attempts to summon Emma, Snow admits she set him up with a fake. Then in strolls David like a badass (he's being pretty damn badass this season…I like it!) telling Arthur that he keep his cushy chair and a fancy-schmancy title. He knew he couldn't trust him.
They haul Arthur back to Granny's and Guinevere shows up with all of Arthur's knights. Lancelot realizes Arthur used the magical fixing sand on her. She orders Lancelot to the dungeons, and it's clear from his tortured expression that Lance loves the hell out her still. Guinevere then uses the roofie fixing sand on Snow and David.
Killian meantime, has "borrowed" a horse to take Emma riding (oh…that kind of riding. Bummer.), but when Emma tries to touch it, the horse rears in fear. Dark Rumple clucks that the animal knows she's evil, but Killian tells her to get on the horse. "I'll never stop fighting for us," he assures her. (Oh, my heart...)
Then they climb on the horse and ride off pell-mell across the countryside, and true to his word, Emma's breathless and not seeing Dark Rumple. He stops in a meadow full of pink roses, where they start smooching and any moment I expect Killian to start sparkling in the sun as they lay there staring soulfully into each other's eyes.
All while over in the dungeons, Lancelot discovers that the neighboring cell holds none other than Merida, who's got a bone to pick with Arthur.
Back in her room, Regina is pacing and worried, but not about Snow and David. "Those two can outlive a cockroach," she tells Robin. She ain't kiddin'. Happy-dusted David and Snow show up and tells Regina to hand over the dagger because Arthur's just swell.
Gimme some more of that Happy Fixing Dust
Forward finally to present-day Storybrooke, and a bound-up good Rumple is begging Emma not to give into the darkness. "I can't be the hero you want" he tells her.
She informs him with a smile that she's going to call on her secret weapon.
It turns out she's got Merida chained up as well. She takes her heart again and commands Merida to pick up her bow. She needs Merida to make Rumple something he's never been: brave.
Well. What the hell did I just watch?
- The timelines in this episode made my head hurt. If Lancelot and Guinevere took the gauntlet and ran into Rumple five years ago, Rumple would have been in Storybrooke. And cursed. For him to actually be there, it would have to be 30+ years ago, wouldn't it? And he's clearly not a "vision" of Rumple because he trades Guinevere for the gauntlet, which we know he has in Storybrooke for season four. Oy vey, with the timelines…
- Guinevere saved Lancelot from the darkness with a torch from the wall. Which apparently works. So Emma sacrificed herself for nothing in the season 4 finale when she could have just stepped back into Granny's and grabbed a flaming shish kebob or something. For that matter, Regina could have saved herself with a fireball. Either that or the darkness really didn't leave Lancelot. Hrmmm.
- Emma needed a quiet place to lie down and rest so Henry lead her bedraggled ass all the way across town to a stable? Does the castle have no other rooms? Couldn't they think of some other reason to get her out on horseback and work Violet in there again?
- Camelot was a "broken kingdom" (as the title alludes). Not sure how you quantify that or why the kingdom was "broken" in the first place. Guess we'll hear about that later. Or not. You never know in this show.
I feel like I just drank all of Killian's rum and ran face-first into a memory curse. Yeesh. What an episode.